Summary: See your position as a platform for God’s purposes.
Living Out Your Purpose
Book of Esther
Rev. Brian Bill
We’re wrapping up our series called “Facing Your Giants” today. We’ve learned so far that when we focus on giants, we stumble; and when we focus on God our giants tumble. But here’s the rub. Each time we take on giants, we also discover some garbage in our lives. Last week we established that whenever we face trouble, we must deal with rubble. This morning I want to suggest that in order to fully face down your giants, you must see your position as a platform for God’s purposes.
Please turn in your Bible to the exciting Old Testament book of Esther. The setting takes place in the city of Susa, which is located in modern-day Iran. Chronologically, the events unfold in the middle of the book of Ezra. As we pointed out last week, while a lot of Jews migrated back to Jerusalem, for some reason Esther and many others stayed behind.
Before we look at how best to live out our purpose we need to familiarize ourselves with the story. There are 5 primary characters in this literary masterpiece:
* King Xerxes: Powerful ruler of the Persian Empire.
* Queen Vashti: Woman of character and conviction.
* Queen Esther: Exhibits both inner and outer beauty.
* Mordecai: Esther’s stepfather
* Haman: The nasty villain.
This book is one of the favorites of the Jewish people and is still read out loud during the Feast of Purim, which takes place in March each year. The story is often acted out, preceded with a period of fasting and concluding with a big feast. Seven years ago, when I spoke at the PCS graduation, I had people hiss whenever I said Haman’s name. What I’ve discovered since is that in almost every local synagogue, annual Esther plays are held. Members of the audience are given noisy instruments to rattle, clang, and bang to drown out the hated name of Haman. I’m going to hand out some noisemakers right now and I’d like you to make a racket every time I say his name. The rest of you can hiss, stomp your feet or yell so that Haman’s name will be audibly obliterated. You have permission to be noisy in the sermon today. For some of you, that won’t be a change from other weeks. Just kidding.
The Miss Persia Pageant
King Xerxes was the leader of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth and decided to throw a party for the nobility that lasted for six months, where military plans were drawn up and wine flowed freely. After 180 days of partying and planning for his upcoming invasion into Greece, he hosted an even bigger bash that lasted for seven days. Persian banquets were known to have up to fifteen thousand guests.
While the King and his buddies were imbibing at this open bar bash, Queen Vashti had a more dignified get-together of her own inside the royal palace. On the last day of the party, King Xerxes asked his gorgeous wife to come out and parade around in front of all his drunken buddies.
When word came to Queen Vashti that her husband wanted her to appear at his party, she told him to take a hike. Can you blame her? She wasn’t at all interested in being gawked at by a bunch of crude men. This made Xerxes go berserk and he ordered her banished from the kingdom.
Let me pause here to say that while Vashti lost her position, she kept her integrity. She knew that her morals would have been compromised had she walked into that room full of drunken men. She would not cross the line because she valued her dignity.
Friend, what about you? Is someone trying to get you to compromise your sexual morals? Don’t do it. Take a stand. Hold your ground. If you’ve already crossed the line, ask God for forgiveness and make a fresh commitment to have some moral courage. It’s never too late. Taking a stand like this is never easy and it’s often controversial and unpopular and comes with some unpleasant consequences. Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship, wrote a column this week about Tony Dungy, the coach of the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts, who has taken a stand recently and is being criticized for it. After accepting an award from the Indiana Family Institute, which believes that marriage between one man and one woman is God’s plan, Dungy declared: “I appreciate the stance [the Indiana Family Institute] is taking, and I embrace that stance.” He has not earned brownie points with the “politically-correct police” and has been criticized and condemned by some in the gay rights movement, but he is standing up for his Christian convictions (www.breakpoint.org).